Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Years Food Tradition

Well, my mom always wanted me to eat black-eyed peas for New Years, but I wasn't crazy about the taste or the texture. I thought about making "Hoppin' John", which is a spicy rice and black-eyed pea dish. Here is my recipe, I sometimes like to add some andouille to this, about a half pound. BTW this is a Low Country dish from the South Carolina/Georgia coastal region, and is eaten traditionally on New Years Day for good luck. Enjoy this recipe and have a Happy New Year.

Low Country Hoppin' John

1 lb dried black-eyed peas (soaked in water overnight)
1 smoked ham hock
1 15 oz. can Rotel® Tomatoes
2 cups uncooked rice
2 medium onions
1/2 cup green bell pepper (diced)
1 cup celery (sliced)
3 large cloves garlic (halved)
1 jalapeno pepper (minced)
2 tbs worcestershire
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp each kosher salt & black pepper
2 tsp Creole Spice Mix
1 bay leaf
4 green onions (sliced)
8 cups distilled water
4 cups chicken stock
3 tbs butter

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the drained black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hock, and the 8 cups of distilled water. Cut one of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to MED/LOW, and simmer gently until the peas are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion, and garlic.

Melt butter in your dutch oven, saute remaining diced onions, bell pepper, and celery, letting the onion until it is brown around the edges, (to help brown the butter) now add the diced jalapeño pepper. Add the smoked pork meat, spices, herbs, worcestershire, black-eyed peas, and the 4 cups of chicken stock. Cook for about 15 mins.

Add the rice and stir it in well, turn the heat up and bring to a boil for about 5 mins. Bring the heat down to MED and allow rice to cook. Stir occasionally and when rice is nearly cooked, (about 20 mins.) give it a stir, add the green onion, place the lid back on, and place in a 300º oven for about 20-25 mins. or until the rice is tender.

Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Very Gumbo Christmas

One of my great friends and fellow magicians Jon Gilliam, who has an incredible hypnosis show in Gatlinburg, seems to love Cajun food, and is a frequent visitor to this blog. I really appreciate Jon's support of my blog and his willingness to try my recipes. Last year he made my Shrimp Etouffé with great reults. Recently on Christmas he took my Christmas Eve Seafood Gumbo post to heart. He went out and bought all the ingredients and sent me a picture of them all beautifully displayed. Now, I'm not sure if Jon or his lovely wife Adriane does the cooking, but there's got to be something good coming.

Here is his message he left me. "Christmas seafood gumbo HERE WE COME! Thanks to my good friend, entertainment mentor and top notch Cajun chef Tim Harkleroad." Now, y'all know I'm not a chef, but you do know I love to cook. Anywhooo, Jon was home with his beautiful little family for Christmas and he sent me a picture of his gumbo after it was made.

Along with the picture you see here, he wrote, "Here is my finished product. Not as dark as I think it should have been but I did not have cast iron so maybe that was why. It was good but not even close to the fried oysters and tarter sauce we made from your recipe. They were the BEST we have ever had by a landslide!" Well, to start with their gumbo looks GREAT to me, on top of that they also loved my oyster recipe. I'm batting a thousand.

Writing this blog is sort of like cooking for people, you want them to try it and give feedback. You also hope, down deep, it is the best they have ever eaten. Thank you Jon and Adriane for your friendship and your support, I am so honored. BBTW go see Jon Dee's Hypnotized Comedy Show when you're in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Friends

It's the most wonderful time of the year. I hope all my followers and friends out there have a wonderful holiday season. I enjoy this blog as a way to communicate to my friends and others that share my passions. I am home with my family, but I know that not all can be with their loved ones. I send out a prayer of thanks and blessings to those away from home. Be it working, distance, monetary, or in the brave service of our country. God Bless us Everyone, and have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Eve Seafood Gumbo

Not having grown up in Cajun country, I never knew that seafood gumbo was a tradition in some homes on Christmas Eve. I had been reading how many grew up having this tradition and I thought it would be nice to try it on the family. So, last year I made it and everyone seemed to enjoy it, some a little too much, but that's another story. I thought I would include my seafood gumbo recipe in a post for the Christmas season. Make this as a soup course if you have a big planned Christmas dinner.

It might sound a little labor intensive, but once you get everything together and ready to go, it isn't really. The only thing is that you can't just dump it all in a pot to start with, and let it go. There is an order to the steps, but again it isn't difficult. OK, I "Photoshopped" the sprig of holly onto the bowl of gumbo in the pic. I do hope you'll give this recipe a shot.

Christmas Gumbo

1 cup oil (plus ¼ cup oil for okra)
1½ cup flour
3 cups onion (diced)
2 cups celery (diced)
1 cup green bell pepper (diced)
1 tbs garlic (minced)
4 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
½ tbs kosher salt
½ tbs black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 lbs package frozen, sliced okra (you can use fresh)
½ cup green onions (sliced thin)
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 lbs MED shrimp (shelled and de-veined, reserve the shells)
1 lbs crabmeat (use less expensive claw meat)
1 pint small oysters
1 gallon water (for stock)

Place the shrimp shells & heads, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, along with any onion, garlic, or celery scraps, into a stockpot with the water, bring it to a boil, and then down to a simmer for 30 minutes, reducing it by a fourth. Skim and strain out the shells and scraps and set aside to keep warm. In another skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil and sauté okra until it is no longer sticky, about 20 minutes on MED. You can do this while simmering your stock.

In a MED/HI cast iron Dutch Oven, make a dark brown roux by combining the oil and flour, stirring constantly until is becomes the color of milk chocolate. When roux is done, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the celery, green pepper, garlic, ½ of the green onions, and cook for 10 more minutes. Add all spices and worcestershire sauce. Add 2 cups of the warm shrimp stock, gradually combining it into the roux, add cooked okra, crabmeat, and remaining stock. Check your seasonings, and if OK, bring the heat up to a boil for 5 minutes, and then turn down to MED/LO and cook for 1 hour.

Add your shrimp, oysters, (with their liquid, or liquor) parsley, remaining green onions, and cook for another 15 minutes, check the seasonings, and serve with rice. You can offer hot sauce and filé powder at the table.

I like to add 1 lb sliced andouille, or smoked sausage, after the vegetables. Technically, most cajuns won't add meat to a seafood gumbo, although many tell me they do secretly. I also like to add a few gumbo crabs, broken up in there, when I add my stock. Lastly, I do like a cup or two of crushed tomatoes in MY gumbo, but I didn't want to start a fight.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mama's Date and Nut Cake

Well, my last post featured my favorite Christmas recipe of my Father, Dub Harkleroad. My Mother, Madeline always made a wonderful Date and Nut cake, which I didn't realize how good it was until I was an adult. Now I can't wait until she makes it at Christmas. Several years ago she fell and broke her arm right before Christmas so I had to make the cake, under her watchful eye. I hope you'll try it and enjoy it.

1 lb shelled English walnuts - whole or halves if possible
1 lb dates - pitted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs - separated
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1 pkg figs (optional)
1⁄4 lb butter or margarine - melted

Combine and sift dry ingredients over fruit and nuts and mix well by hand. Add melted butter, or margarine, and stir well. Combine the four egg yolks with vanilla and pour over the other ingredients. Beat the egg whites stiff and fold into the rest of the mixture.

Line a loaf pan with wax paper and spoon in the batter. Bake in an oven at 300º for 1 - 1 1⁄2 hours. Let cool for 20 mins and turn over onto a serving plate. It is best to leave the dates whole and the nuts in large pieces as possible. You'll notice the beauty of this cake is there is only enough cake to hold the dates and nuts together.

Enjoy this wonderful cake this Christmas


Friday, December 4, 2009

Daddy's Peanut Butter Candy

Well, Christmas is quickly approaching and I wanted to pass along my favorite Christmas candy. This is my father's (W.J."Dub" Harkleroad Jr) peanut butter candy recipe. It is similar to a fudge in consistency. My dad created this when he was a teenager. I have included a picture of him around that age. He's gone now, and the responsibility of making it falls to me. I sure miss him, but this always brings a smile while I make it, thinking of him. I hope you make it and enjoy it.

Dub's Peanut Butter Candy

2 lbs light brown sugar
1 can evaporated milk (small 5 oz. can)
¼ cup milk
½ cup Karo syrup (medium green label)
1 stick butter
1 jar peanut butter (10 oz. jar)

Combine sugar, milk, evaporated milk, and Karo syrup in a large pot. Cook over MED until a thick caramel forms. Try to stir very little as it can make it grainy. When the mixture makes a solid, but soft, ball in cool water, (345º with a candy thermometer) it is ready. When the mixture is at the right stage, add ¾ of the stick of butter and remove from the heat. Stir in peanut butter until well blended and it starts to stiffen slightly. Pour into a pan or dish that has been coated by the ¼ of the butter left over. Allow to cool and set up.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear friends and followers, I want to wish you all a very happy and thankful holiday. I am thankful this year, and every year, for my family and friends. I have a job and I am also able to communicate with like minded folks like my fellow foodies out there. Have a great day, eat lots of turkey, and give thanks.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Easy, Creamy, Dreamy Biscuits

Since the holidays are coming up, and you'll have lots of opportunities to use all kinds of breads, I thought I'd give everyone my favorite biscuit recipe. This was given to my by my late Uncle Haskell Harkleroad. Technically he was my father's cousin, but I always referred to him as my uncle. He was a great cook and these are great biscuits.

I know some of you will be making all kinds of meats around the holidays like hams, turkeys, pork roasts, etc. and these biscuits are great biscuits to serve with them. Or you can also adorn them with the traditional toppings like bacon, sausage, or country ham. These are easy and delicious tasting. Thanks Hack for this recipe.

2 cups self rising flour
1 cup of heavy cream
pinch of salt

That's it, using a fork, mix it in a bowl, turn out onto a floured surface, knead it about 10 times, roll it out about a ½ - ¾ of an inch, cut into biscuit rounds.

Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and bake in a pre-heated oven @ 425º until brown on top, about 12 - 15 minutes. You can dab a little butter on top before baking, or brush them with butter after they come out of the oven.



Turkey and Dressing Soup with Dumplins

Turkey Day is fast approaching. This is my recipe for, I think, the best after-holiday turkey leftover soup. I don't usually measure out the turkey meat, I usually use most of the remaining breast meat. Around 3 lbs I would think. I use a lot because this recipe makes a lot of soup.

3 lbs turkey breast meat (roasted, shredded coarse in big chunks)
½ stick butter or margarine
1 large onion (diced)
4 ribs of celery (diced)
½ tsp garlic (minced)
8 cups water
4 cups milk
4 cups turkey or chicken stock (if using stock from your turkey be sure to skim the fat off)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 box dressing mix (cornbread variety)
1 tbs Tony C's cajun/creole spice mix
1 tbs kosher salt
½ tbs black pepper
2 sprigs thyme
1 tsp dried sage
2 bay leaves

In a large pot on MED/HI ( I use a 7 qt. dutch oven ) melt the butter and sauté the onion and celery until softened. Add garlic, spice mix, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Let this go for about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, after 5 minutes add the turkey. Let this cook for about 10 minutes then add the water and milk. Bring this to a boil and pour in the dressing mix and the cream of chicken soup. Bring back up to a boil for about 10 minutes, turn down to MED/LO and let cook for an hour to tenderize the turkey. Check the celery in the soup to see if it is soft before adding the dumplins with the recipe below. By the way, this soup is great by itself, but the dumplins really top it off.

Dumplin' mix

1 cup flour (self rising or use plain and add 2 tbs baking powder)
2 tbs oil ( don't use olive oil, use a light vegetable oil )
1 pinch salt & pepper
milk or water

In a bowl combine the flour, salt and pepper, oil, and enough milk or water to make a mix about the consistency of cake frosting. Turn soup down to MED/LO and drop half-spoonfuls into soup. The dumplins will puff up and float to the top of the soup. Have a great holiday, enjoy!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving's Coming!

Here is a pumpkin soup recipe that I made recently, and I thought it was great. Be sure to use "sugar" or "pie" pumpkins when making this, as opposed to Jack O' Lantern type pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are meatier and have a darker flesh. I cut mine into quarters and baked them after brushing a little oil on the inside. I cooked them about an hour at 300º until the flesh was soft.

I then scraped the meat out of the darker orange skin. This is what you cook with, discarding the skin. About 5 or 6 cups of pumpkin are needed. Two small sugar pumpkins should do it. Drain off any moisture after you scrape the meat out of them.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It's great for friends coming over to knock the November chill off. Slow cooking really helps infuse these flavors greatly.

Pumpkin & Andouille Soup

5 - 6 cups cooked pumpkin (2 cans canned)
1 ½ cup onion (diced)
1 cup celery (diced)
1 tbs garlic (minced)
1 tbs Tony C's Cajun & Creole Seasoning
2 cups Chicken stock (warm)
2 cups milk
1 stick butter or margarine
3 tbs flour
½ tbs each salt and black pepper
1 tbs rubbed sage
½ tsp nutmeg
⅓ lb Andouille Sausage (grated)
1 cup Half n Half
2 bay leaves

Sauté the onions, celery, garlic in half of the butter or margarine. Add sage, nutmeg, Tony C's, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Cook until onion has softened. Add remaining butter and flour, stir until flour browns a bit. Add 2 cups of warm stock and stir well.

Add sausage and cook for 10 minutes, then add milk. Bring this to a boil for 5 minutes, and then turn down to MED. Add the pumpkin and cook for about 30 minutes. Place the pot covered in a 300º oven and cook for 2 hours.

After cooking for 2 hours, remove from the oven and, using an immersion blender, pureé the entire pot of soup. If you don't have one of these, spoon everything into your food processor or standard blender and pureé. Check your seasonings for salt and keep warm. Serve garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds. For a unique serving method, hollow out another larger pumpkin, brush the inside with oil, and bake for about 30 mins. Serve soup inside this pumpkin. Impress your friends!

Enjoy the Holidays!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Andouille Sausage in LaPlace

I have been wanting to get some authentic Cajun Andouille for some time now. I am usually stuck using Richard's or Savoie's, nothing against these, they are fine products but I wanted some of the real deal. On Halloween day while visiting friends in LaPlace, I axed them to take me Andouille shopping. In case you don't know what Andouille is, it is a smoked pork sausage, which is chunkier than say... Hillshire Farms, and uses REAL smoke for their curing. It was created by Cajuns to flavor their gumbos and other dishes.

Jacob's Andouille in LaPlace is an award winning boucherie specializing in Andouille of all kinds. Of course their bread winner is pork, but as you see from their menu on the wall, they have chicken andouille as well. I bought about 3 sticks of the original to take home and a small segment off of another stick to munch on while driving to Baton Rouge, This stuff is amazing. I have yet to make a gumbo with it, but I hope to next weekend.

A very small place, all the work is going on backstage. so to speak. You go to a counter and order, or you can serve yourself to the items that are in the cooler to the left. They also make boudin, tasso, Italian sausage, smoked chickens, bacon, smoked pig's tails, and cracklin's to name a few. In addition to their patient and friendly counter service, they have a very thriving mail order business as well. I have been to their site and you can order nearly everything they make from it. The Andouille mails well because it doesn't need to be refrigerated.

If you want great andouille for your cooking, you can't beat Jacob's. Gumbo, Andouille Cheese Grits, Red Beans, Jambalaya, to name a few, are awesome with the inclusion of this wonderful smoked meat. If you'd like a great Chicken and Andouille Gumbo recipe, here you go! Enjoy and be sure to check out Jacob's if in New Orleans, (it's about 15 mins. out of town, past the airport) or go to their site and have it delivered to your doorstep.


Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

1 cup cooking oil
1 ½ cup plain flour
1 lb (2 cups) smoked Andouille sausage
2 lb boned/skinned chicken thighs (Diced bite size)
2 cups onion (diced)
1 cup celery (diced)
½ cup green pepper (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 cups crushed, canned tomatoes
¼ cup green onion (sliced thin)
¼ cup parsley (chopped)
2 tbs worcestershire sauce
1 tbs hot sauce (Tabasco or Crystal)
3 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken stock (hot)

In a 7 qt., cast iron Dutch Oven, heat oil on MED/HI, when hot, add flour and stir continuously until the roux reaches a dark brown color. Add diced onions and cook until onion is transparent, about 5 mins. then add celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook another 10 mins.

Add chicken, bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Stir to combine, cook 10 mins. Whisk in 2 cups of the hot stock, add the Andouille and cook 10 mins. Now add remaining stock, tomatoes, 1⁄2 the green onion, and 1⁄2 the parsley, bring to a boil for 5 mins., then turn it down and let it cook on MED/LO for an hour or more. Serve with rice, topped with remaining parsley and chopped green onions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Middendorf's Restaurant for great seafood.

I had been hearing about this restaurant for nearly two years from my friends Beth Fury and Henry Harmison from The NOLA food forum, and on their LADay Rides Blog. " Oh you have to go to Middendorf's, it's great". "Oh yeah? What's so great about it," I would ask. "Thin catfish is their speciality", they would say. This was intriguing to say the least. I love catfish, but sometimes it can be thick and greasy because it takes longer to cook when it's a big fat filet. This thin catfish caught my attention.

OK, they do not have their catfish on a diet, they just slice them about one third of an inch thick, dust them in a light cornmeal, and deep-fry them nice and crispy for your dining pleasure. Let me say, I had a seafood platter, so as to get a sample of everything, and the catfish was not only the best thing on the plate, but it was the best catfish I have ever eaten... ever! You can't imagine how good this stuff was. I usually have lots of tartar sauce on hand, but I didn't really want to mask the flavor of this catfish delicacy.

First, a little about the restaurant itself. Started in 1934 by Louis and Josie Middendorf, the restaurant opened with Josie doing the cooking and Louis tending bar and chatting up their customers. In 1970, Middendorf's was already popular, but it became even more so after I-10 opened between Metairie and LaPlace. Then recently the restaurant was purchased from the family by husband and wife Horst and Karen Pfeifer. Knowing a good thing, they haven't changed the recipes or the specialities from the ones that made the place famous. Horst and I are pictured above.

They had a nice gumbo, maybe a little heavy on the worcestershire sauce, but still was nice. The also had crab fingers, (shelled blue crab claws) served with an odd parsley sauce of some sort. The shrimp remoulade looked great as well as the shrimp Po-Boy that Henry ordered. I had some shrimp on my platter and they were very lightly breaded and flavorful. The shrimp and the oysters rounded out the platter very nicely. Nothing could stand up to the catfish though, it was the belle of the ball.

Beth's husband Darryll had the fried oysters, which I got a couple of those on my seafood platter as well, and they were great. Honestly everything I got was great with the exception of the stuffed crab. I am sad to say was very dry and tasteless. Might have gotten a bad one, I am told they are normally quite tasty. If you use too much filler in crab cakes, or deviled crab, it can ruin it. No worry, the rest of the platter more than made up for this unfortunate crustacean.

They make their own ice creams and had several flavors on hand including the standard chocolate, vanilla and the best strawberry I ever tasted, and I don't usually like strawberry ice cream. I actually chose the peach, it was alright but I should've had the strawberry. All in all the homemade ice cream was excellent.

Henry, Nan, Barbara, Beth and Darryl were great company, and Beth is a great trip planner. I hadn't seen Barbara in over a year, and it was great meeting Nan, such a sweetie, and Darryl for the first time. We all went to Berry Town Market in Ponchatoulas. It was great. We also did some antiquing, wading deep into the Manchac swamp, and bought some andouille at Jacobs in LaPlace. What a day. Again, Beth and Henry, thank you so much for a great Halloween afternoon and letting me get to know a little more about Louisiana than just New Orleans. Be sure to get out to Middendorf's when visiting the area.


Boiled Peanuts

I love boiled peanuts, I always have, since I was introduced to them in Savannah Georgia as a child. It was my Dad that started me on what he called "boilt' beanuts." Here is a picture of some I got at a place called Berry Town Produce in Ponchatoulas, LA. I have never seen peanuts this big in my life, and they made the best boiled peanuts I've ever eaten. The nut inside was enormous!

If you can't get any of the ones pictured above, or don't want to bother boiling your own, try Peanut Patch brand boiled peanuts. They are really good and very inexpensive, being available at WalMart among other places, like your local grocery store. These are surprisingly tasty, well of course they are, considering they're made in South Caroline you know they would be. I love that as you drive through SC you will see about every convenience store or gas station selling boiled peanuts.

If you want to make a go of it, I also have a recipe for you...

4-5 lbs green, raw peanuts
6-8 qts purified or distilled water
1 1/2 cup kosher salt

In a large stock pot, bring the water to a boil, add salt, peanuts and boil for 6 to 7 hours, or until the peanuts are done. The only way to tell is to taste them. The consistency of the peanuts should be that of a cooked bean, just this side of mushy. The freshness of the peanuts to begin will help determine if they’re done or not. You can add garlic powder, creole seasoning mix, or just some cayenne pepper to the mix for a taste variation. Be sure to use kosher salt to keep your peanuts looking fresh. Iodized salt will turn the peanuts black. You might have to add water as they cook.

Try boiled peanuts sometime, it is an acquired taste, but you might love them.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saucy Q Barbecue in Mobile, AL

I first heard about this barbecue restaurant in Mobile from my cab driver one day, and decided to find it and give it a try. We had enjoyed some of the other Mobile eateries we'd found so far, and we had a hankerin' for some ribs.

My pal Evan Hanna and I took a quick ride over to 1111 Government St. to Saucy Q Barbecue, which is located in what looks like it had been an old Western Steer chain restaurant. The placement of their smoker in the front of the restaurant gave me a reassurance that this might be worth the trip.

Upon entering the foyer I got another great whiff of wood smoke and pork. After scanning the MENU I elected to get an order or rib tips and "knuckles." The tips come from the bottom end of the ribs, I don't want to venture a guess where the "knuckles" come from. Although I do not like really "wet" barbecue, (I prefer applying any extra sauce by myself), the sauce was excellent and the ribs were tender and flavorful.

I also got a pork sandwich that was more ground than pulled. It had a tasty slaw on it and came with the sauce on the side. The meat was flavorful and smoky and was laid on generously. I was impressed.

My buddy Evan got a full rack of spare ribs, about a dozen big and meaty. The were also served with the sauce on the side. The meat came off pretty clean, and could have been a little more tender, but all in all were tasty and smoky. I will have them next time.

The sides were all excellent. Between Evan and myself we had the macaroni and cheese, collard greens, french fries and cornbread muffins. All tasted scratch made, (the collards were awesome) and all were done very well.

I met the owner Elbert Wingfield, and I told him our thoughts on the food, how we really enjoyed it. He was a very friendly man, you could tell he likes people. He is a barbecue aficionado, who evidently knows his craft. Most barbecue joints disappoint me with their sauce, some use an institutional sauce, but this was sweet like I like it, smoky, and did what it's supposed to do.

We got a couple of pictures and bid him farewell. One thing is we forgot to was ring the bell, indicating a satisfied customer. OK, sorry we forgot, but we had a great lunch, nice atmosphere, and a friendly and attentive staff. When hungry in Mobile, head on over the Saucy Q's Barbecue Restaurant for a great meal, and tell them RouxBDoo sent you!.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Check out these Jack-O'-Lanterns

American sculptor Ray Villafane has some of the most incredible pumpkin sculptures I have ever seen. He has an amazing tutorial on his site to help you do the same. Now, we've all carved our share of pumpkins, but never anything on this scale. these things are tremendous works of art. If they didn't rot, they should be in a museum. What is really amazing is seeing the tutorial on his site and how simple he makes it look. Old triangle eyes and toothy grin this year most likely.

I hope you go to his site and check out his other artwork. As you all know I love Halloween and all its trappings. I will be posting more Halloween stuff on here. I will be spending Halloween in New Orleans!
I am going to House of Shock, and hopefully 13th Gate in Baton Rouge. These are two gigantic Haunted Attractions in Louisiana owned by friends and haunt associates of mine. I have never seen Dwayne's place yet, and am yet to see House of Shock's new location. It will be a great Halloween. In the mean time, enjoy these great pumpkins!

RouxBDoo Boooooooo

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cajun Food in Mobile Alabama

Since my last days in New Orleans I had been longing for some good food. On my way to my new assignment, the MS Holiday, I am passing through the commercial district of Mobile Alabama. I happen to see a restaurant called "The Boiling Pot" along the way advertising PoBoys, Crawfish, and Seafood, and thought, "Hmmm, I'll have to try that next time I am in town."

Man am I ever glad I did. I tried the Fried Crawfish Tails first and the were the BEST I'VE EVER EATEN. Very tender, very flavorful, and very lightly breaded. The were huge, some of them, there on my plate. Perfectly breaded and fried.

I next tried the gumbo. It was OK, it wasn't earth shattering, I'm not sure, but it tasted like an institutional variety. For my taste, it was a little thin, but there were quite a few shrimp in it, so I'll give them extra credit for this. Either way it wasn't bad.

I was so happy to have Cajun food of any kind, especially those fried crawfish. I was surprised they didn't have Jambalaya on the menu, I'd think it would do well. I ignored a few of these little points here and there. If nothing else go there for the Fried Crawfish Tails. So if you're in Mobile Alabama, check out "The Boiling Pot" for some tasty food. Oh, here's their MENU to check out.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

Well, I do. I have been relocated with my job to Mobile Alabama. A really nice place but it ain't NOLA! I spent my last day there last week and it rained nearly all day. I have a picture to prove it. I had beignets at Cafe Du Monde for breakfast, soft shells at Galatoire's for lunch, and I grabbed a bowl of gumbo to take back to the ship for dinner.

I will miss my friends, the shops, the restaurants, the food, and all that goes into New Orleans and makes it so unique. I am planning on spending Halloween there if I can work it out. I guess it was appropriate that it rained the last day I was there.

Farewell for now, I'll return someday.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Amy Francisco's Crawfish Etouffée

Hey gang, I am posting this link over to Amy Francisco's Crawfish Etouffée recipe. This one doesn't require a roux, which takes up most of your cooking time. I will have to try this myself soon. Amy is one of our blog readers and I appreciate her offering this recipe, she must've known I love this dish. Check it out and let me know. Thanks again Amy, we appreciate it.

CLICK HERE to see this recipe.

Photo Credit: Pam Roth
© Pam Roth

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce came to my attention through an e-mail sent to my blog. Now, I love sauces and create a few of my own and I am usually very skeptical about them. They have to be pretty good to get my attention. I went to their website where all their diverse line could be ordered. In a few days I got a bottle of their signature sauce, an "All Purpose Sauce" which I can best describe as a cross between a steak sauce and a barbecue sauce.

My initial taste test consisted of a dab of sauce on a spoon. Wow, a nice dark flavorful sauce. Properly balanced with sweet, savory, and spicy flavors. It was very tasty and a nice thick consistency. Sometimes sauces might be too thin but this was ideal for basting or just pouring on meat. On to test number #2.

For my next test I had fried some country style ribs for dinner. I had my brother over to eat so I thought I could kill two birds with one sauce. I tried the sauce on the pork, again the sauce was darn near perfect. I think it's a winner, my brother Phil, who works as a cook in food service, liked it too. I look forward to trying it while grilling out.

As I looked over the website I liked the story about their origin. A quote from the website says, "In 1968 Country Bob Edson perfected the sauce of his dreams. After years of giving the sauce to friends and family he began to sell it in 1977". I love stories like this. I also like the fact they acknowledge Christ as their "CEO." In a time where businesses are terrified to make public their beliefs, Country Bob's makes me proud.

If you go to their website at COUNTRY BOB"S, you can get a coupon for a free bottle of All Purpose Sauce. They also have barbecue sauces, Season Salt spice mixes, and a gift box set with all of their products and even a recipe book. Nice people with a great line of products. Oh, by the way, for the first two people to leave a comment on this post, you will receive a free bottle of the All Purpose Sauce. You need to also e-mail me your mailing address to pass along to Country Bob's if you are in the first two.

Now, I know this is not necessairily cajun or creole, but good food is good food, and this sauce is GREAT! Check them out now!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Luncheon at Galatoire's

In 1983 I was passing through New Orleans on a tour of South Louisiana. It was my first visit to the Crescent City and my pal Tommy Curtin was driving. Tommy had been here before and told me of a restaurant that had been around for nearly a century. Not only was it world famous, it was Bob Hope's favorite restaurant. Well, that sounded good to me, let's go!

The restaurant in question was Galatoire's. It was opened in 1905, by Jean Galatoire when he bought out Victor's restaurant on a VERY different Bourbon Street. It has stayed in the family for generations and won many prestigious awards over the years. Always listed in the top restaurants in New Orleans it has been consistent in its stellar service and amazing food.

On my first visit to Galatoire's I vividly remember ordering the Trout Meuniere Amandine, which was recommended by my friend Tommy. Honestly, this was the best fish I'd ever eaten. Actually it was the best meal I had ever eaten. This beautiful trout was sautéed in clarified butter, and topped with toasted almonds. How many meals can you remember 26 years later?

When I was considering going back to Galatoire's, I made up my mind I was going to have to Soft Shell Crabs, they've been my favorite food for years. My decision was made easier by watching a video of soft shells being made by Galatoire's Head Chef Brian Landry. (To view this video CLICK HERE.)

I made my way over to Bourbon street to the restaurant with its classically appointed green awning. Entering from Bourbon is like stepping into a different world. The white linen covered tables, and real waiters dressed like waiters and not like the flair-festooned, suspender-bound, "wait-persons" you see at Bennigans and the like.

I was seated and introduced to Peter, my waiter and his lovely assistant Evangelyn. She served me a personal loaf of nice crusty french bread with butter. Ice tea came and I made my choice for the soft shells with a gumbo appetizer. I asked Peter if Chef Landry was on the premises, to which he said "yes, would you like to meet him?" "I would love to," was my reply.

Soon I was shaking hands with one of New Orleans' youngest head chefs, especially in such a prestigious appointment. A friendly face let you know that meeting a customer was not a laborious chore, but an honest gesture of welcoming me to his place. We chatted for a moment about what a big fan I was of him and the restaurant, he then excused himself to get back to work. This simple, friendly encounter really made my visit special and memorable. By the way, make no mistake, my mention of his age has no bearing on his abilities, which are beyond impressive.

Peter first brought out a bowl of seafood gumbo, which was the best I've EVER had, and that's no easy task. Chock full of shrimp and lump crab meat, the base was dark and flavorful, the way it's supposed to be. After finishing the gumbo, I was served my entrée. There on the plate were two large, expertly pan fried, "busters," covered in toasted almonds and sautéed lump crab meat. I almost got teary at the sight and aroma of this heavenly crustacean.

Words can barely express my emotions from the first bite to the last of this wonderful meal. The dish was absolute perfection. My favorite food just got "kicked up a notch." Where could it go from here?

OK, maybe I am going overboard, but it was a great meal. I topped it off with coffee, and as I was finishing up Chef Landy came back to my table to ask how my meal was and bid me farewell. What other "Top Rated" restaurant does the Head Chef take this type of personal approach? Not many I'd recon. I paid my bill and made my goodbyes to Peter and Evangelyn. On the way out I grabbed a menu and a couple of recipe cards and headed back out into the garish trappings of Bourbon Street.

A wonderful day with an exquisite meal. An exceptional New Orleans experience that I will cherish. Did this meal top my first Galatoire's encounter? Not sure, but if not it's a close tie. Chef Landry, his staff, and the owners should be very proud of this crown jewel in New Orleans' lofty epicurean crown. Galatoire's is located at 209 Bourbon St., just a block off Iberville. Reservations are not required for the downstairs dining room, but dress respectably, no shorts, etc. Click HERE to see their website.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Metairie Creamy Crabby Soup

When I was first staying in New Orleans overnight with business, I had a friend Doug Ferguson who lived in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. Doug and his sweet wife Barbara welcomed me to their beautiful home like family, and I love and cherish them dearly for their wonderful Southern Hospitality.

We would cook from time to time, and I developed this soup while there. Now, we used to add shrimp to it, but I think it is perfect as it is with just the crabmeat. I miss the evenings with the Fergusons since they moved to Texas after Katrina, here is the soup recipe though. I made it tonight and it was wonderful. It made me think of my friends, so I named it after Metairie. I know you'll love it.

BTW you can use less crab, or more soup. I like this balance. Also, you can use the less-expensive claw meat instead of the lumps for this soup. It actually works better for soups like gumbos and bisques.


1 lb crab meat (use cheaper claw meat)
1 cup onion (small dice)
1 tsp garlic (minced)
1 16oz can chicken stock
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ stick butter
4 tbs flour
1 tbs Tony Chacere's
¼ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp nutmeg (or a pinch)
½ tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme


In a MED/HI stockpot melt butter, and add onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and nutmeg. WHen onions are wilted, add flour, Tony C's, cayenne, black pepper, and paprika. Cook and stir until the roux starts to turn a tan color. Add stock and blend into the roux. Cook for 10 mins. and add crabmeat, milk and heavy cream. Bring to a boil and turn down to LO and cook for about 30 mins. Great with cheddar garlic biscuits. Don't add salt, there's salt in the crab, stock, Tony C's, and the butter. You might get it too salty!


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Zatarain's has been a New Orleans' tradition since 1889. Although they have a very wide and encompassing selection of products, my favorite is their Creole Mustard. This is one of the first products introduced by Emile Zatarain in the late 1800s. It remains a big seller to this day. Now, I know they have rice mixes, seafood boils, gumbo base, Creole Spices, etc, but my favorite is still their mustard.

Anywhere you use yellow mustard, try this instead. I use it in recipes, sometimes I use it in my barbecue sauce. My favorite application for it is on a roast beef or Ferdi Po-Boy. There is nothing better than that spicy mustard complimenting my Po-Boy, and not just the meat type, shrimp, oyster, fried crawfish, all can benefit with a shot of Zatarain's Mustard.

I like mixing it with mayonnaise, (about half and half), or with Steen's Pure Cane Syrup for a nice glaze for pork loin or chicken. I learned that little tip from my friend Danno at NOLA Cuisine. Anyway you use it is fine and it's up to you! Please go over to their site and see the many great products a they offer. For their website CLICK HERE!

PS: I like their Cayenne Pepper too!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Chef Matt Murphy Recovering

As we reported a few months ago, Chef Matt Murohy from the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, contracted a streptococcus infection that led to toxic shock syndrome and disseminated intravascular coagulation, a condition that prevents proper blood coagulation. Well after many surgeries, and treatments he is finally back on the mend. HERE is our original post.

If you go to you can read all about his recovery and all the efforts by his fellow chefs in New Orleans to raise money for his mounting medical bills. Matt, we are happy and relieved you are getting better, our prayers were always with you. See you soon at the Ritz-Carlton, maybe I'll pipe you a tune 'er two on my Uilleann Pipes.

How to Make a Roux

As Justin Wilson used to say, "firs' ya gotta make a roux, you know dat!" If you don't "know dat" you should realize to make a proper gumbo, sauce piquant, etouffée, or crawfish stew, for example, you need to know how to make a Roux. Pronounced "roo," it is the result of cooking nearly equal amounts of oil and flour together until it is nice and brown. Different shades of brown are achieved by different cooking times and temperatures. The longer the cooking time, the darker the color and flavor, and the less thickening quality it has. Usually cooked in a cast iron pot or skillet, oil can be substituted with lard, shortening, or animal fat. Most of the old Cajuns insisted on using lard.

Although both descended from French kitchens, Cajun rouxs are usually darker in color, and are used more for flavor than as a thickening agent. Creole rouxs are used more to thicken and tend to be lighter in color, like a béchamel sauce. They often use butter instead of oil for a more savory flavor.

For most recipes, I will use a dark roux. Somewhere between the color of milk chocolate and dark chocolate. This takes some time. Etouffées, for instance, use a lighter roux, but this varies from dish to dish.

For a standard roux, we will use 1 cup of vegetable oil and 1½ cup of flour and a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. If you make it in a skillet you'll probably need to transfer it to another, larger vessel after making it. Heat the oil in the skillet on MED, whisk in flour to avoid any lumps. After smoothing out all the lumps, I use a heat-proof, silicon, flat-end spatula to stir the roux, you want to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot, and this silicon spatula gets in all those little corners. Most cooks prefer using a wooden spoon.

Don't go off and leave it. With the spatula, completely brush/scrape the roux off the bottom and sides, wait a few seconds, letting it brown a bit, and then repeat. Keep it moving, don't let it burn. If black specks appear, throw it out and start again. Keep stirring until it is the desired color you need, take it off the stove eye, and continue with your recipe.

Roux can get to upwards of 500º and can burn you badly. Chef Paul Prudhomme calls it Cajun Napalm. Be careful and don't burn it, or yourself. Do a few trial runs before you plan a big dish. If you are making it to put in a recipe later, transfer it to a heat-resistant container, as it will continue cooking if you leave it in the skillet. It is best to make it in the pot or skillet you will be using for the particular dish. Most recipes will require you to sauté the *"Holy Trinity" in the roux. If so, put the onions in first, to wilt them for a few minutes, then add the remaining celery and green peppers. This picture shows a roux after the onions have been added.

Adding the "Trinity" will stop the cooking process, so make sure you have it where you want it (color-wise) before adding the onions. Oh, the roux will actually turn a darker reddish color after adding the onions, this is from the caramelization of the sugar in the onions. The smell is almost irresistible at this moment. If you wanna cook cajun food, you gotta make a roux.

* The Holy Trinity is diced onions, celery, and green bell pepper.

Have Fun!


The Dry Dock Cafe

Well, I've been through dry dock before, but that usually pertained to a refurbishment of a cruise ship. The Dry Dock Cafe is a great meeting place and restaurant across the river from New Orleans downtown in an area called Algiers. My friend Mangesh Desai, an Indian magician from the ship, and I took the ferry over to Algiers Point to meet two other magician friends, Trini Montes, Trini's darlin' wife Amy, and card magic legend Jon Racherbaumer.

I first met Trini and Jon years ago when I first started coming to New Orleans, then Trini, an excellent magician on his own, came on the cruise and we got together later to do some magic. Jon is a prolific author, writer, and performer. I always feel humbled when I get to see Jon. He is as friendly as can be and will absolutely blow you away with mind-blowing card magic, especially for magicians.

I had been to The Dry Dock Cafe before with my magician friend Joe Harrison, it must be popular with magicians for some reason. Just right off the ferry platform on the corner of Bouny & Delaronde, The Dry Dock Cafe is serving a great menu from seafood to cajun and creole specialities. I had the seafood gumbo and a fried shrimp and oyster platter for my meal and they were both great.

The gumbo, was brown and thick with great crabmeat and other seafood. The flavor was some of the best I've had in town. Believe it or not, it is hard to find good gumbo in New Orleans, since so many restaurants (rumored to be over 50) are using an institutional gumbo made by hundreds of gallons, and passed off as made in-house. This is a welcome change to have this great bowl of gumbo with it's little gumbo crab reaching over the edge of the bowl.

The fried shrimp and oysters were really fresh tasting and fried perfectly. The slaw and hushpuppies were great, and the fries, although I ate only a couple, were good enough. The meal was capped off by some nicely brewed ice tea. All in all a great meal.

Getting together with my magician buddies was a special day and the food was equally magical. I recommend The Dry Dock Cafe for their food and pleasant atmosphere. You can get there from downtown by heading down to the end of Canal Street, crossing the tracks there at the World Trade Center to the Spanish Plaza, and then walking up the ramp to the ferry. The best part is... it's FREE! Check it out when in New Orleans, you can even take your car over on the ferry.